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Joanne Hawkins May 18 th 1998 HISTORY To what extent can the consolidation phase of the revolution (1923 - 1939) be called a revolution from above? Stalin? s rise to power and the subsequent introduction of his new industrially based Five Year economic plans in 1928 can be defined as a revolution from above. During the consolidation period between 1923 and 1939, he successfully industrialised Russia to such an extent that he had taken the nation from a backward, essentially peasant based society to a nation rivalling any of the world powers. From the lower ranks of the Bolshevik party, Stalin rose to inexplicable heights.
Stalin used his position as General Secretary of the Communist Party in 1922 to increase his own power as he appointed his supporters to key positions in the party. In the leadership struggle that followed Lenin? s death, he had the advantage of a stronger power base than his challengers. By manipulating the highest echelon of the Party, the Politburo, Stalin succeeded in turning them against one another and watched as they undermined themselves.
He then replaced them with his own supporters to increase his own power base. It was then that Stalin departed from socialist ideals and implemented the first of the 5 Year plans in which the modernisation of the Russian economy was planned through industrialisation and collectivisation. This was a revolution from above, in that these changes were decided by Stalin and accepted by the masses. They did not have any direct say in government policy and opposition to these policies by the peasantry, and in particular the Kulaks, was quickly squashed by Stalin who used the secret police (OPCU) and accumulated Party support to enforce them. The peasantry and any other opposition to Stalin? s power were crushed in the purges following the murder of popular politburo member, Kirov, in 1934.
Stalin proceeded to eliminate any opposition to his power and used propaganda to create his Cult of Personality. Through this propaganda, Stalin presented himself as the heir of Lenin? s Legacy, the creator of the modern Soviet economy and the destroyer of internal threats to the Communist regime. In spite of Stalin? s claims in the new constitution of 1936 Russian was far from being a Socialist state. Stalin had departed from previous Marxist sentiments in his Revolution from Above as he controlled and dictated the masses through terror, a powerful governmental structure and propaganda.
Before his death in 1924, Lenin had unintentionally provided Stalin with a means of increasing his own personal power. Unlike traditional governments with clearly defined patterns of promotion, there were no guidelines for Lenin and the Bolsheviks (Communists, 1919) to follow in the formation of the new socialist government. Procedures followed were uncertain and as the government grew, there were opportunities for individual advancement. Certain posts which were not originally thought important began to provide holders with increasing amounts of power. Stalin was appointed a member of the Politburo in 1917 because of his reputation as a hard worker who paid attention to detail.
It was in these years that Trotsky described him as an eminent mediocrity. He was given many posts, the most important of which was the appointment of Stalin as General Secretary of the Communist party in 1922. This position gave him access to the personal files of all party members and made him responsible for recording and conveying party policy. Stalin had become an indispensable link in the chain between the communist party and soviet government command.
This post also gave him the power to appoint his own supporters into official positions within the party. In this way he could be assured of their support as they voted in the various committees and congresses that made up the Soviet government. Stalin also took advantage of the changes that had occurred in the structure of the communist party before Lenin's death. Between 1923 and 1925, the Lenin enrolment had been launched in the aim of increasing the number of true proletarian in party ranks.
The party doubled in size between 1922 and 1925 as large numbers of predominantly poorly educated peasants and workers joined the party. The responsibility of the Lenin enrolment was given to Stalin The masses appreciated the privileges that came with party membership and recognised the importance of loyalty to the individuals responsible for their acceptance into the party. Lenin's elite party was being transformed into the mass party of Stalin. Lenin had also launched an attack upon fractional ism. This was spurned from his condemnation of disagreements within the party which had escalated during the civil war period. The censure of fractional ism prevented any serious attempts by members to criticise decisions and policies.
After Lenin's death in 1924 his words, actions and decisions remained reverently unchallenged The charge of fractional ism was used by Stalin after Lenin's death as a weapon for resisting challenges to his policies or position in the party. After Lenin's death, the Politburo publicly announced plans to continue governing Soviet Russia in a collective leadership. In theory, the Bolshevik party had always been under collective leadership. According to Marxist principles, the Bolshevik party was suspicious of leaders and believed that the right to authority lay in the representing the will of the proletariat masses. Lenin had never been officially proclaimed leader of the Party but the struggle for victory in the civil war had necessitated a more central power base. In the testament written before his death, Lenin stated Comrade Stalin, having become General Secretary, has concentrated limitless power in his hands and I am not certain that he will always be careful enough in the use of his power, recommending that he should be removed from his position as General Secretary.
Lenin's fears were disregarded by the party and this testament was never publicised as it also contained negative criticisms of other politburo members. Behind the scenes, competition for individual leadership had already begun. The politburo was Stalin? s main opposition to a greater power base. It was comprised of two main groups. Trotsky, Kamenev and Zinovev, who believed that the NEP was a temporary measure and betrayal of revolutionary principle (Left Communists), and Rykov, Tomskey and Bukharin, who believed that the NEP was serving Russias needs adequately (Right Communists).
Stalin was the seventh member and kept a neutral standing with regard to key issues. The death of Lenin was marked by national mourning with Stalin acting as the leading mourner by orating at the ceremony from which Trotsky was absent. Stalin recognised that his position would gain legitimacy if he appeared to follow in Lenin's tradition. Trotsky, though flamboyant and brilliant, was feared and unpopular with politburo members. His popularity dwindled further as the Lenin enrolment proceeded, admitting more of the uneducated proletariat into the party who were more likely to give support to the strong but unspectacular Stalin who they owed their membership privileges and promotions to. It was from this power base that Stalin made his move.
Stalin encouraged the right wing to attack Trotsky whilst always remaining in a neutral relationship with both left and right wings of the politburo. His new slogan Socialism in One Country? , which suggested that Russia build up her own power to promote national stability and peace was a direct challenge to Trotsky? s theory of? permanent revolution, in which society was constantly changing to achieve perfect socialism. It was Trotsky's own Left wing comrades Kamenev and Zinovev who, with Stalin, planned then executed his demotion. With Trotsky's power diminished, Stalin then turned on his betrayers.
In 1926, Trotsky joined them to form the New Opposition bloc. Stalin called upon his right wing supporters, Rico, Tomskey and Bukarin to outvote the bloc and Kamenev and Zinovev were replaced as Soviet Chairmen by Stalin? s own supporters, whilst Trotsky was expelled from the Politburo. It was Trotsky's loyalty to the party that prevented him from wholeheartedly joining the power struggle as he considered the Communist Party, My party-right or wrong.
On the 10 th anniversary of the 1917 revolution, Trotsky and his followers protested of Stalin's new policies during the celebrations. Stalin took the cue and expelled Trotsky from the Communist Party in 1927. With the defeat of Stalin? s biggest threat, in Trotsky and the Left Communists, replacing the Right Communists with his own supporters was relatively easy as Stalin had majority support in the Politburo.
By 1929, Stalin was in a position of great power and introduced his plans to depart from Marxist ideologies and use this power to centralize and control the economy of Russia. The aim of Stalin's economic policy was the modernisation of the Soviet Union through collectivisation and industrialisation. This was a revolution from above in the sense that Stalin planned and implemented this change in policy and the proletariat masses followed. The industrialisation was to be made possible through the initially voluntary collectivisation of agriculture. Agriculture was intended to provide the surplus resources for industrialisation. Large collectivized farms were thought more efficient as machinery would be used more effectively.
This increased efficiency would decrease the number of rural workers needed the country and provide more workers for the factories. Surplus grain could be exported to generate investment capital for industry. There was never any grain surplus yet Stalin insisted that the grain shortages were the result of peasants hoarding grain, resulting in an uneven distribution of food. The grain shortages of 1928 provided Stalin the basis for a major propaganda exercise. He claimed it the richer peasants who had grown wealthy during the NEP (Kulaks) were hoarding their produce, creating increased demand in order to maintain high food prices. Stalin believed that the Kulaks stood between him and his proposed economic changes through collectivisation.
The liquidation of the Kulaks opposition was introduced in order to effectively collective the Russian economy. De-kulakisation and collectivisation began in 1929 and official squads were recruited by the secret police. The result was massive social upheaval as land and produce was forcibly removed from the masses. In protest, many peasants destroyed all of their grain and slaughtered their livestock.
The public anger was so strong that Stalin was forced to call a temporary halt to the terror to clear his own name, before restarting the program. Between 1929 and 1930, Stalin succeeded in collectivizing 60 % of Russian farms and by 1939, 98 % of farms were collectivized. Those who resisted were shot or arrested and exiled to slave labour camps (gulags). These gulags became the backbone of the Stalinist economy. Food production levels decreased dramatically and during the national famine between 1932 and 1933, the small amount of grain available was exported as the fictional grain surplus to provide capital for industrial investment. According to the Communists, this famine did not officially exist, therefore no measures were taken to remedy it or seek international aid.
Using these tactics, Stalin had succeeded in terrorising the peasantry into submission. Stalin? s industrialisation program was his attempt to establish a war economy to rival capitalist enemies. In 1928 he launched the second soviet revolution. This was a revolution from above because Stalin used his own political power to modernise and industrialism Russia? s economy in direct opposition to Marxist doctrines.
Stalin believed that the industrialisation of USA and Europe had been based on heavy industry. Emphasis was placed on iron, steel and oil production. However, the industrialisation of Russia occurred whilst the rest of the capitalist world was in the midst if the great depression. Stalin believed that the root of the depression lay in the destructive capitalist system and that by learning from the proven successes of capitalist economies yet rejecting the capitalist system he could avoid such errors. Stalin launched his first 5 Year Plan in 1928.
It was a set of unrealistic production targets detailing heavy industrial expansion. He also further abandoned socialist ideals by abandoning equal wage systems and introducing party envelopes, containing bonuses for loyalty. The need for urban workers led to an shift in population from the rural areas. The peasants were mostly uneducated and illiterate and became Russia? s new working class. Industrial work and living conditions were bad as Stalin departed once more from Marxism and placed workers conditions on the lowest place in the order of planning priorities.
The best workers were publicly honoured to encourage production. In 1935 Alexi Stakhanov moved 14 times his required coat quota in a single shift and became the figurehead of the Stakhavonovite movement which gave benefits to workers who excelled. Inefficiency grew as factory directors were in direct competition with each other to meet with production targets. Deceit became the normal practice. Failure to meet with the plan led to dismissal or even sabotage accusations. These accusations were used by Stalin to attack anyone who was not totally committed to the new soviet order.
Unreliable statistics for industrial growth made it possible for Stalin to announce that the first Five Year plan had achieved it? s targets in 4 years. The second 5 Year plan (1933 - 37), which began during the national famine, was more realistic that the first but revealed weaknesses in Russia? s economic structure. Over production occurred in some areas and under production in others, creating supply shortages. These shortages led to resource hoarding and a lack of co-operation, hindering economic growth.
This led Stalin to search for scapegoats. It was during the second Five Year Plan that the Purges, which in theory were a means by which the Communist Party and the Soviet State was preserved and refined, reached their height. The purges that escalated after the murder of Kirov in 1934 and subsided by 1939 were used by Stalin as a method to eliminate any opposition to his political power. They were another example of Stalin? s departure from true socialist ideals as he used force and terror through government organisations, like the secret police (OGPU), to enforce loyalty and co-operation. By the mid 1930?
s, Stalin? s popularity withe Old Bolsheviks, who were concerned with the growing similarities between Stalin? s rule and the Tsarsist empire started to dwindle. Many younger communists also agreed with their dislike of his methods. In 1934, Kirov, a popular communist leader, was shot. Stalin used this event to introduce harsh new laws that enforced the arrest and execution of anyone involved in terrorist activities without any defence by the secret police.
The Show trials 1936 and 1937 were public propaganda trials of well known? enemies of the state? . The whole of Lenin? s Politburo except Trotsky (exiled) and Stalin were there. The trials were used to set an example to the Russian public. They were not true trials in the sense that most of the accused confessed after threats or torture.
The many methods used to suppress opposition by Stalin, included torture, imprisonment, execution and slave labour camps (Gulags). By 1938 there were about 8 million Russians in these camps, most of whom never returned. In 1939 Stalin called a halt to the atrocities after the secret police had been purged. By this time the Politburo was entirely made up of Stalin? s men, increasing his political power, and the entire country was in fear.
Stalin used propaganda to create a cult status for himself among the Russian people in order to increase his own individual power. As he developed the Cult of Personality, Lenin? s involvement as the founder of the Bolsheviks was marginalised and Stalin became the figurehead of the Communists. His minor involvement in the October Revolution was foregrounded as he became not only Lenin?
s disciple, but his equal. The media was used to saturate the public with pro-Stalinist propaganda as Socialist doctrines concerning leaders as inept representatives of the Soviet State were forgotten. In theory the 1917 Revolutions were Revolutions from below in which the suppressed proletariat (led by the Bolsheviks) had risen above and conquered the oppressive Tsarist system. Conversely, in Stalinist Russia, decisions were made in the high echelons of Communist government and implemented onto the masses. In 1936 Stalin announced a new constitution by which he claimed to have achieved Socialism. Propaganda was used to mask the discrepancies between theory and reality and instil conviction through fear.
The Five Year Plans were an example of this propaganda, as the Russian people became convinced that they were changing the society in which they lived, making it safe from foreigners and achieving greatness through unity. Under Stalin's leadership, a cultural revolution was underway as Russias masses sincerely thought they were building a new and greater society. At a gathering of Soviet writers, Stalin told them they were engineers, directing the reconstruction of the human soul. The aim of propaganda was to create a nation that were accept ive and compliant to Stalin? s regime. A revolution is loosely defined as being a radical change in the constitution of a country after revolt.
Stalin? s rapid change of the economy into a modernised nation, essentially based on heavy industry can be interpreted as a revolution from above. Unlike the 1917 revolution led by Lenin and the Bolsheviks, Stalin? s revolution was exercised from the highest echelons of Soviet government as the proletariat were forced or coerced into conformity. Stalin planned to centralize and control the Russian economy. In this way Stalin departed from previous Marxist sentiments and undertook a revolution from above.
In the Marxist analysis of the class war, it was stated that a societies political and social system was a direct product of its economic structure. Stalin's Five Year Plans were a direct inversion of this ideology. Instead of the economy shaping the structure of Russians political system, Stalin used his powerful political system to determine the structure of the economy. Marxism was also departed from as workers living and working conditions were given little attention and equal wage packages were abandoned.
Stalin used the Purges by his secret police and propaganda to quell all opposition. The Communist Party, in rejecting previous socialist ideologies, had been transformed by Stalin into a more totalitarian regime giving him immense political power and transforming him into a Communist Year.
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